Scary Screaming Joggers on the Writing Road, by Dia Calhoun, October Theme
People perpetually say we need to face our fears. But what does that mean? Marching out onto the freeway and throwing your body between the air and a semi barreling toward you at 80 mph? Facing your fears by engaging in full body contact is rarely successful and sometimes fatal.
I prefer the quick-step method of facing my fears. First, rather than marching out onto the freeway, I choose a quiet country road with a jogger running toward me. He’s a scary jogger, not only because he’s wearing a neon Nike jogging suit, but also because he is screaming something like, “Your book will never sell! Your book will never sell!” Faster and closer he hurtles toward me. What do I do? See him, name him—oh here comes my fear of never selling my book—then step out of his way and let him rush past. Then I continue walking down the road . . . writing my book.
This really works. I can’t STOP the fear, because after all, it is entirely possible and reasonable that my book will never sell. Many fears have their basis in reason—that’s what makes them so powerful. The point is, am I going to let my fear slam into me and flatten me into road kill? Or am I going to look my fear in the face, step aside, and continue walking down the road—writing my book?
All right, you ask, what if I step aside only to be face with another screaming jogger? I will be faced with another screaming jogger, and another and another. I think that marathon is called life. Every time a fear rushes toward me, I name it, acknowledge it, step aside, and keep going.
The hard part is to be conscious of what I am afraid of. Because a lot of those fears are bubbling in the primeval stew of my subconscious. Sometimes I only know one is there by some emotion it provokes. But as soon as I can name it, I can step aside. Sometimes I may take a fork in the road. But I keep on going.
So what, then, does it mean to have my fear come true? What happens when a book doesn’t sell? Then I ask myself: what was more important, writing my book or selling it? If selling it is the true answer, there are lots of places I could fulfill that dream in a much less tortuous fashion than writing. I could become a used car salesman.
Nah. Think I’ll keep just walking down the writing road.